Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 16, 2010

Bottom Up Review: Button Down and Focus

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Organizational Issues — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on July 16, 2010

Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security released its “Bottom Up Review (BUR),” which is intended to “align the Department’s programmatic activities and organizational structure with the mission sets and goals identified in the” Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR).

The review, which began in November 2009, focuses on three questions, according the agency:

  • How can we strengthen the Department’s performance in each of the five mission areas?
  • How should we improve Departmental operations and management?
  • How can we increase accountability for the resources entrusted to DHS?

The BUR is envisioned to be the second phase of a three-phase process, sandwiched between the QHSR and the Fiscal Year 2012 budget request and the DHS FY 2012-2016 Future Years Homeland Security Program to Congress, to be submitted next year.  DHS has made it clear that BUR is neither a strategic plan (which is probably good since there are too many plans gathering dust on the shelves of DHS) nor a budget request.

In a press roundtable this morning, Assistant Secretary of Policy David Heyman and Deputy Assistant Secretary Alan Cohn answered questions and spoke of how the BUR plays into efforts to improve the Department’s  performance.   They noted that this is the first time the Department has done such an exercise and, looking to the future, they hope to sharpen the process and focus for conducting such reviews so that the steps more fluidly provide for improving the Department’s missions and priorities.

The BUR was described as one that addresses themes, that is, the goals and objectives of what the agency should focus on to build a strong homeland security enterprise. Assistant Secretary Heyman noted that there was “not a lot of descriptions of strategic realignments” in the BUR, though there was “some discussion of managing portfolios” better.  He suggested that the report was not intended to  suggest that areas are “ripe for realignment,” but rather that there is a need for reviewing different elements distributed across the Department to determine where areas of better coordination are needed.  (Translation:  The Department, even if it is pondering realignment, cannot say so now as it has not been vetted through the Office of Management and Budget process or with Congress).

If the QHSR was designed to provide a strategic framework for the Department’s missions and goals, the BUR is intended to help provide us a roadmap on where the agency will focus its efforts going into the next fiscal year.  In short, the review is intended to tell us how the Department plans to button down and focus its many disparate efforts.  In answering the three questions above, the BUR emphasized three areas:

  1. The Department needs to grow up and get stronger so it can run itself and account for all of its programs and resources.
  2. Homeland security is not just about DHS or the federal government so the agency needs to really focus on strengthening its partner capacity and capability.
  3. It is not just about the U.S. – DHS needs to do better on the international front if it is going to succeed in its efforts.

A 70 page document, the BUR provides a number of specific areas in which the Department is/intends to focus its efforts. Here are a few that stand out:

  • Coordinator for Counterterrorism.   Expect this recently-created position to gain more stature and resources in FY2012.  The position was created to give someone the ability to coordinate all counterterrorism efforts across the Department, its directorates, components, and offices.  During the roundtable, Assistant Secretary Heyman specifically mentioned the report’s “notion of strengthening counterterrorism” across the Department as an example of how to better management portfolio.  The BUR itself discusses the evolving nature of this coordination and the need to consult with Congress on the effort.  This suggests some potential future request for realignment and resources (?) to make sure all the parts of DHS are on the same page on this effort. The big question, however, is what is meant by counterterrorism?  How will that term be defined?  Also, how will any mission re-focus or realignment (if any happens) affect those areas where an all-hazards approach is being promoted?

  • Create an integrated Departmental information sharing architecture. The description provided in the BUR is rather self-explanatory:

DHS will create an information sharing architecture to consolidate and streamline access to intelligence, law enforcement, screening, and other information across the Department. That architecture will include the capability for automated recurrent screening and vetting for individuals to whom DHS has provided a license, privilege, or status (including immigration status) so that, as new information becomes available, DHS can assess whether the individual is no longer eligible for the benefit or presents a threat. It will also include the capability to conduct scenario-based automated targeting of individuals and other entities using intelligence-driven criteria.

  • Focus on the security and resilience of global trade and travel systems. In the past, DHS has come under criticism for not paying attention to ICE’s non-detention missions.  Interestingly, the pendulum appears to have swung away from that approach, with the BUR stating that DHS will prioritize on the security of global trade and travel systems, including developing an investigative portfolio that includes “human smuggling and trafficking, child sex tourism, counter proliferation, financial, intellectual property, weapons trafficking, and narcotics investigations.”  In addition, the report says that DHS will continue to invest in “trusted traveler and trusted shipper” programs.
  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform. DHS continues to promote its efforts on comprehensive immigration reform, though the three-legged stool (enforcement, future flow, and pathway to citizenship) appears to have been expanded into a five-legged stool that now includes:  (1) border security and interior enforcement; (2) mandated employment verification program; (3) clearing up family and employment visa backlogs; (4) recast legal migration provisions to meet the needs of the twenty-first century for both high-skill and low-skill workers; and (5) pathway to citizenship that is tough but fair in which those here illegally will register, record biometrics, pass a criminal background check, pay back taxes, pay a fine,  and learn English.
  • Increase the focus and integration of DHS’s operational cybersecurity and infrastructure resilience activities. The BUR makes clear that DHS sees it responsibilities in this area broadly and that it has the lead on Federal civilian and private sector networks and plans to continue to lead in that area.  Interestingly enough, DHS excludes “civilian national security systems” as being within its jurisdiction in several places in the report.  In light of the reports that the NSA is potentially classifying the smart grid and critical infrastructure systems as national security systems,  see Cybercitizen?, we will have to see which agency’s definition of “civilian national security systems” prevails, assuming that they are different.  Also, how does this effect the efforts of the National Communications System, located within DHS and coupled with its cybersecurity efforts, which traditionally has taken on the mission of assuring communications support to critical Government functions during emergencies, especially relating to national security efforts?
  • Explore opportunities with the private sector to “design-in” greater resilience for critical infrastructure. The BUR refocuses the DHS’s efforts on setting infrastructure design standards for critical infrastructure resilience, in an expansion of the authorities given to it under the 9/11 Recommendations Act of 2007. In addition, there is some reference of building these standards into programs like the Safety Act.   The BUR also implies that we haven’t seen the last of an expansion of standards, similar to what is in place for the chemical industry, to other critical infrastructures.  It does not explicitly state this, of course, but does say it will “examine the need to set security requirements at high-risk assets and in high-risk areas as appropriate, and to set standards for security practices in critical infrastructure sectors as necessary.”  Such effort would require a lot of cooperation from Congress. 
  • Seek restoration of the Secretary’s reorganization authority for DHS headquarters. DHS wants to be able to reorganize without Congress looking over its shoulder.  This ability was given to the Department under Section 872 of the Homeland Security Act but has been chipped away over time so that the Secretary has little authority to undertake any reorganization efforts.  The BUR states that that the Department will ask for this trend to be reversed.   In addition, DHS wants to look at how to realign its component regional configurations into a single DHS regional structure and strengthen cross-Departmental management functions by creating a Headquarters Services Division within the Management Directorate.  DHS will continue to focus on the seven initiatives that make up the core of its “One DHS” efforts, including:
    1. Enterprise Governance
    2. Balanced Workforce Strategy
    3. Transformation and Systems Consolidation
    4. St Elizabeth’s/Headquarters Consolidation
    5. Human Resources Information Technology
    6. Data Center Migration
    7. HSPD 12 Implementation

The Department will also continue to try to elevate the Assistant Secretary of Policy position to an Undersecretary position, despite significant opposition from key lawmakers on the Hill.

  • Congressional Oversight.  We haven’t heard a lot on this front for awhile, but the BUR notes the need to still streamline Congressional oversight.  The report notes that DHS has testified 200 times and provided more than 5,227 briefings in the 111th Congress.  The good news in these numbers – it seems like that DHS will have testified less this Congress than in the 110th, in which its officials appeared 370 times.  The bad news – Congress still needs to streamline its Congressional oversight efforts, both to hold the Department accountable and to help it mature further.

Again, this is just a snapshot into the BUR and the Department’s priorities. The real meat of both the QHSR and BUR that will separate this three-part effort from past strategic plans, outlines of priorities, and mission statements will come in the new year with the FY2012 budget request and the DHS FY 2012-2016 Future Years Homeland Security Program to Congress.

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6 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 16, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

This may surprise some readers of this blog and readers of my comments but sometimes I feel sorry for Congress. Systematically denied or perhaps they wilfully ignore their rights and opportunities as the third branch of government I think they actually did a good job in mandating the QHSR for DHS. This process in DOD has actually had some impact. I don’t think it will have any impact in DHS and here is why.
I went back and read Section 2401 of Public Law 110-53, enacted August 3, 2007 to see what it said. That section amended Title VII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and added a new section 707.
Now I have trouble reconciling either the February QHSR or the BUR with the statutory mandate. For one thing Congress mandated a separate report from DHS on exactly the Funding and Staffing that would go into the effort to be given Congress 60 days after enactment. Was that done? If so I missed it.
Then there extensive discussion and mandates on circulating any product to all concerned and interested federal departments and agencies and getting their comments and cooperation and collaboration in preparing the QHSR. No indication that even circulation throughout the Department was accomplished with the intention of gathering real input. None in final documents I would argue. Was this oversight, laziness or something else.
I think what we have now is a major and critical department of the Executive Branch on overdrive without much in the way of really hard thinking or willingness to rethink the first creation of the Department and the first eight years. For example now does the expensive, politically controversial, and resource intensive remapping of the nation’s flood plains fit into the efforts of DHS on terrorism prevention or counter terrorism.
And the discussion of all hazards is clearly driving the department into pyschosis. We already know that the relatively underfunded and understaffed Coast Guard is working the BP catastrophe and wondering how the rest of DHS is helping. Will OIL SPILLS are one of the many threats of an all hazard preparedness, prevention, response, mitigation, and recovery effort.
What you say? Oil Spills have nothing to do with terrorism! Oh yes they do suppose that either tankers or drilling rigs in sensitive areas of coast were seized by terrorists and with either a nudet or conventional explosive damaged or destroyed so as to create a catastrophic incident/event. Or say radiological materials were used to destroy or damage water intakes on sensitive facilities. So I would argue that we are given a chance in the BP catastrophe to see exactly what capability the feds have to respond and in this case with a “cooperative and collaborative” BP and of course wonder what it might be like if the event had been deliberate as opposed to “accidental”!
No I think the shelf life of the two documents, first the QHSR and the BUR will be limited. Luckily for DHS Congress is focusing on its reelection so doubt that much oversight would occur. But I would challenge DHS to put out a somewhat detailed press release listing the statutory mandates of the new section 707 and cross referencing in the QHSR and the BUR where DHS believes it satisfied the statutory mandate. Surely there are enough contract dollars to do that. Oh and which contractor prepared these two reports? Hoping none but suspect otherwise. What was the deliverable? Did someone read the statutory mandate?

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 16, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

I probably should have mentioned that I think the OMB guidance for FY 2012 is going to cause weeping and nashing of teeth in many agencies and departments but guessing the need for a wailing wall in DHS will be the greatest.

Comment by John Comiskey

July 18, 2010 @ 5:21 am

[Homeland Security] “it’s our theory for how we’re going to cause security for ourselves.”
Richard Falkenrath, 2002 [1]

Page 1 of the QHSR reads:
In the years since 9/11, homeland security had become commonly and broadly known as both a term and a Federal Department. Less well understood, however has been its ongoing purpose and function, What is homeland security? Is it more than preventing terrorism? If so, what else does it ask to achieve a safe and secure homeland? What risks are we willing to accept?

[and most importantly:
Who has the responsibility, authority, capabilities, and resources to do all the things that needs doing?

Short answer: WH-CONGRESS ( & SCOTUS)

The implementation of transformative government is a slow and arduous process. While the urgency of the matter requires expediency, we must consider all things all of the time.

What is needed is leadership and direction and particularly at the WH and DHS.

The QHSR & BUR provide great insight and even vision.
Now; tell and empower DHS and the whole-of-government to do all that is necessary and then let them do so with all the inherent risks and the prospects of effective governance!

[1] Falkenrath. R. (2002) Homeland Security: The White House Plan Explained and Examined at the Brookings Institute, September 4, 2002. http://www.brookings.edu/comm/events/20020904homeland.pdf

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 18, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

Well John respectfully disagree. Believe STATUS QUO is reflected in the QHSR and BUR. Posted the exact statutory mandate on my blog at http://vlg338.blogspot.com

Hoping you highlight the vision in the two docs from February and July and how those docs generally match up with the STATUTORY Mandate.

Actually hoping you are right and I am wrong. Perhaps my blinders.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 19, 2010 @ 11:42 am

Apparently and according to Congressional Quarterly key staff and members very unhappy with the BUR for lacking detail and meeting statutory mandates.

Comment by John Comiskey

July 19, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

I am not sure that we disagree but its okay if we do -I typically learn a lot more from disagreement.

I emphasize vision and acknowledge that the status quo has not changed much and certainly not fast enough. I am not so much concerned with statutory mandates as I am with the best possible outcome given the realties at hand. I share America’s impatience with government and probably most other things.

How much detail do the congressional staffers want? Let them go to the airports w/o VIP credentials or ride a commuter line or municipal subway or visit a port or ride along interstate 10 in New Mexico or observe the massive intake and processing of homeland security information. Or visit Times Square on a Friday night in summer. There is a lot going on at the homeland security front -to appreciate it one must live it outside the beltway.

I look forward to agreeing and disagreeing with you.

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